Unfortunately the words of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” has often been interpreted in light of carrying one’s burdens. Oh, that’s my cross to bear.
- like an infirmity
- or a bad work environment, etc
The cross in Jesus' day was an instrument of torture and execution, pure and simple. There wasn't a figurative use of "cross" as a "burden" or "trial" in those days. Death on the cross was shameful, excruciating, and often protracted.
When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.
Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death.
Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self”. It’s a call to absolute surrender.
Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost. In Luke 9:57-62
, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him.
None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests. Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation!
Discipleship is costly.
Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:-
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?
Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross?
Our primary example of the cost of discipleship is Jesus Himself:
Read Phil. 2:1-13
Dietrick Bonhoeffer describes the difference between cheap and costly grace. Cheap grace, he said, is grace without a commitment and response from the believer. It is grace without servanthood. Costly grace, said Bonhoeffer, moves us to response to the call of Jesus. Costly grace moves us to the discipline of dying.
Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that as disciples we move from a place of admiring Christ to following Christ. Christianity is not a set of beliefs; it’s a way of life.
Not a life delineated by rules, but it is evidenced by a compassionate response to the situations that confront us.REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. Take a minute to reflect on these words of Jesus:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
2. What emotions/thoughts come to mind as you reflect on them?
3. How do these words challenge you?
4. What will you do differently as a result of what you have heard?